Songs From Pandemic Time

Do you think there will be a label for that period of time in the year 2020? I heard someone say the phrase “pre-Covid19” the other day and thought, that totally sucks if we think that we are going to have to refer to that time period like that. I hear “pandemic lock-down” and “during the lock-down” alot. I’m not saying they are right or wrong, but it did happen: I started working from home as a precaution.

There was a bunch of songs I was looking into every week, making new song arrangements, finishing the arrangements of other songs that I had left in a folder that were on the back burner and so on. And I went into them and then some.

I realized this year, in February I think it was, that most of these songs are so depressing LOL, songs of loss and weepiness. But if we didn’t have these songs there would be nothing to balance out the happy-go-lucky ones. Also, we need emotional outlets occasionally. I think because I was a bit worried, and I had no outlet for that from day to day, I just gravitated towards these semi-weepy songs.

I almost titled this “Another Eagles Song”, but I decided, let’s be true to the time period I arranged this in.

I found “Wasted Time” online and loved the key for singing but did not like some of the chords. I played it on my tenor and I played it on my favourite, my pineapple soprano, but nope, there was something wonky about the chords. I heard it in my head a certain way and some of those chords were just wrong! So I had to spend a considerable amount of time going through chord groups and experimenting. It was a wonderful way to spend some time! I really enjoyed it.

Today’s songs are Wasted Time by the Eagles, and Without You by Harry Nilsson. Although, between you and me – and please don’t hate me! – I absolutely LOVE Mariah Carey’s version of Without You: she did an amazing job and I wish, I wish, I wish I could sing like her!!

Road Trip Memories

Childhood memories…

The song I’m posting today, Best of My Love by the Eagles, has a special place in my heart.

My father of all people loved this band. He was heavily invested in the 8-track cassette tape players. There was one in our house, one in our van, and one in our BOAT (didn’t last, but hey, brownie points for effort).

The 8-track tapes played round the clock at our place and if we were driving in the van for more than 1 hour we listened to one from start to finish. The glory and genius of the 8-track tape was that it was continuous: it didn’t have to be re-wound like a cassette tape. And my father took full advantage of that!

The family van!

A 1975 Ford Econoline Club Wagon was our family vehicle until 1980. My father took us on our 1-week summer vacation to Calabogie Lake, Ontario every year, towing an aluminum fishing boat.

This 7 and 1/2 hour journey was made on Hwy 7 from Peterborough to Perth, travelling through such quaint little places such as Havelock, Madoc and Kaladar.

Sidebar: Although I haven’t been up that way in over 15 years, a couple years ago a friend of mine told me that the town of Kaladar holds a huge country and folk music festival on a farm every summer, and that the attendees come in with their trailers and camp there all weekend. It’s so big and so well known that the legendary Tom Cochrane likes to drop in and jam with the bands. Go Kaladar!

Fishing buffs: Between Kaladar and Perth is Sharbot Lake. My dad used to make a day trip just to fish there and he said that lake has some of the biggest fish he’s ever seen – and we live on Lake Erie, so that’s saying something!!

Perth: the town you are looking for after traversing the countryside. This town has Canadian Tire, fast foods, Tim Horton’s, car repair shops, gas stations, bait shops, grocery store and Hospital. But wait! Exit Perth on the 511 North, and this takes you strait to Balderson, Ontario, home of the best cheese ever. Stock up on this before you get to the cottage to enjoy with the wine you picked up in Perth. Balderson Cheese was a mandatory destination stop. We even stopped there on the way home to pick up a year’s supply!

Just up the road from there is Lanark, and this is your last chance to get any bug-spray or firewood before you go into no-man’s land. Also, it’s hilly as hell from this point on. What’s that? You thought Hwy 7 was hilly? Nah. We’re talking rollercoaster level from here on until you get to Calabogie Lake. (The next lake over, Centennial, is probably better known for fishing and camping.) This will only be assuaged by the opportunity to pull over and buy quarts of blueberries along the way. Yum!

So that’s a snap-shot of my annual family road trip to the (multi-family shared) cottage. The best part about it was the endlessly playing 8-track tapes of: Kenny Rogers the Gambler, Olivia Newton-John’s Greatests Hits, and a country and easy-listening compilation of hits from the 70’s called The Green, Green, Grass of Home. But his absolute favourite was The Eagles Greatest Hits.

We made 3 road trips a year: Florida for March break, Calabogie Lake in July, Florida for Christmas break (2 weeks). I have told my husband Jeff about how just preparing for these trips is a cherished childhood memory. Before my Dad bought the brown Econoline van we had station wagons – actual woody’s! My parents were both teachers since I was 5 years old, so I have a distinct memory of sitting in the station wagon leaning over the back seat, looking though the open back door watching my parents load all our stuff. And this was on Friday after school because we needed to get on the road as soon as possible. The station wagon was backed into the garage, the door was open and the kitchen door was propped open. Then we’d haul ass to Windsor to cross the border into Detroit as the first leg of our journey to Florida. One year we had a tire blow-out on the Florida turnpike – I remember always seeing these signs for KISSIMEE – and my Mom turns around and yells at my older sister and me, “Hold on, girls!” – I’m lounging in the back, leaning over the top of the back seat and my sister is sitting propped against the door with her legs lengthwise along the back seat, and we’re playing cards or something like that – I think I was 8, and when my Mom yells out to us LOL we grab each other instead of holding on to something! The wagon is swishing back n forth and we’re in the fast lane on the right, and my dad has no choice but to pull over on the far right with fast traffic whizzing by us while he changes the tire, then, on the return trip we blow another tire somewhere in another state. Dad said that’s what made him decide to trade that wagon for a van, and he’s always had vans since then. And he never had another second-hand vehicle ever, after that!

Enter the two-tone brown Ford Econoline van in 1975, with it’s cool sliding side door, and two bi-fold back doors. A small ladder was mounted on the back door on the right and the big spare tire was mounted on the back door on the left. The front seats were two luxury captains chairs that could swivel around backwards. This seemed revolutionary and modern! Then a short bench seat, and then a long bench seat that spanned from one side to the other. I had the short one and my sister had the longer one. Here’s my next childhood road trip memory: while the van is in motion, driving down one of the American I’s, ON AUTO-CRUISE (also very cool and modern) – my parents switched drivers. I’ll never forget it. It was kinda like the game Twister, ha ha. I never saw them do it again, but they probably did. Owning this van also ended our over-nighting at motels: it influenced them to “drive straight through”. Since our destination in Florida was 22 hours from home, my parents gave in to the temptation. We would be on the road by 5 pm Friday after school, eating sandwiches for supper, stop once we got across the border for a pee break, then my mom would tuck me into my sleeping bag by wrapping the lap seat belt around the outside of it and clicking it in behind me, just so she knew I was secure and wouldn’t slide off the bench seat while I slept. And I would go to sleep, and wake up in the morning to the wonderful smell of coffee brewing. She had a little coffee maker that plugged in to a utility outlet in the front console, and this thing would make 1 cup of coffee at a time and she just loved that thing. I did too, I loved waking up to the smell of fresh brewed coffee. One time, my dad reached around behind him and nudged me awake. He was telling me to wake up and see the sun rise over the Smokey mountains with him. So I got out of my sleeping bag and climbed into the front passenger seat and got to enjoy that with him. Found out my mom had gone into the back of the van for a lie down amongst all our luggage and shoes!

During this time while my sister and I slept through the overnight drives, my father played his 8-track tapes and we would listen to those songs over and over again. I would drift off to sleep with Kenny Rogers and wake up with Olivia N-J. During the day it was the Eagles all the way. In 1980 my Dad traded in the two-tone brown Econoline for a brand new two-tone blue one. They were virtually identical except for the colour, and the new one had chrome running boards. Dad traded the blue Econoline for a red Ford Windstar in 1985, and they continued driving to Florida until 2018. So for 10 years we travelled in a Ford Econoline for our family vacations. Good call Dad, ’cause those road trips are some of my best childhood memories! I even learned to drive and got my license in the blue Ford Econoline!

I hope you enjoyed my road-trip childhood memories. We had many adventures on the road, like the time my mom left her purse behind in an IHOP in Cincinnati, Ohio, but a staffer called us on our mobile phone – my dad was so modern!!! – and told her about it LOL she didn’t even realize til that moment – and my dad was put out because he had to turn around and go back, costing precious time! Sometimes one of us had to go to the bathroom – urgently!! – only there was no exit for miles yet, so my parents pulled over and we were given a roll of toilet paper and told to go crouch behind a bush. One time, between two doors, back in the station wagon days. We travelled with our dog, without our dog, with coolers, with packed lunches, boxes of snacks and home-made bottled water from rinsed out orange juice containers. I read Nancy Drew mysteries and did books of word search puzzles. And all the while, the music was playing, over and over. My parents sang along, I sang along. And to this day, when any one of those songs comes over the radio or comes up at karaoke or ukulele jams, I know it in my heart because it is directly linked to my happiest childhood memories.

In honour of that last sentence here is Best of Love and Homeward Bound. I hope you enjoy playing them together.

Say You Love Me

I’ve re-worked my earlier arrangement

Because it was too low. I put it up to A, ad I can feel my voice comfortably opening up to hit those notes. I call it my sweet spot.

Also, I realized that I play it too fast, need to sloooooww dowwwwwn…

The key to this song is mimicking the effect of the piano in the original recording. I found this easier to accomplish in the Key of A. Below is an illustration illustrating how to progress from A to F#m.

From A to F#m

This is pretty easy, and can be learned by practicing this technique for the Intro. When forming the A chord you just add your ring finger to the formation, to the second fret of the third string, for just one beat (one down and up), then you remove your ring finger leaving your other fingers there to continue to form A again.

Just really love playing and singing this song!

T’UkeS group song

So here’s our group’s best song, I think, we can play anywhere in the town of Tillsonburg, the county of Oxford, OR in Norfolk County: Tillsonburg by Stompin’ Tom Connors. This is a real easy song, only 3 chords. However, it was surprisingly long, with the “Tillsonburg” chorus after each verse, which have to be sung in order because they tell a story. This affords plenty of opportunity for the audience to sing along with the chorus, so it remains popular.

Here are a couple of misunderstandings I had about Stompin’ Tom Connors;

  • I believed he was born and raised in Ontario
  • I thought he made the town of Tillsonburg famous
  • I had no idea that he sang so many songs about Canadian towns, places and famous people
  • I never knew where Leamington was until I heard the Ketchup Song (I was born and raised in Long Point….)
  • I thought he was from Toronto

Boy! Was I wrong! You can Google the answers to all of those points. Jeff gave me a book out of his dad’s garage about 5 years ago, “Stompin’ Tom Before the Fame” and wow, what a dramatic writing. I followed it up with “Stompin’ Tom and the Connors Tone: the Legend Continues”. They were both page-turners! What I got out his autobiographies was, he was ahead of his time. And it took a long time for big music execs to accept him. But the number one thing that brought his songs into our hearts was that they were so Canadian. About our country, our towns, our railroad, myths, legends, roadways, cultures, etc and so on. Two or three years after I read his books my husband and I were touring PEI in the summer of 2017, taking in as many historical sites for free as we could for Canada’s 150th birthday. Any where we went in PEI there was a sign somewhere referencing the life of Stompin’ Tom Connors. What a cool claim to fame!

And all we got’s Tillsonburg!!

Ukey Update

So THIS happened….!

A new uke from my awesome hubby, who surprised me with this tenor Ukulele for Christmas! Yes: your Ukulele dreams can come true at Christmas-time!

This is a really beautiful ukey, by the name of “Aklot” – have no idea where it comes from – but it plays like a dream! It has this nice mellow resonance to it with no harsh “bark”, it’s easy to tune, it came with brand new strings on it so it sounds awesome and is easy to play.

That being said, I’ve played the odd tenor ukey for a few seconds here and there. But I’ve never played an entire song on a tenor uke and I’ve never played one for over an hour!

I keep this guy right beside my desk in my home office, and we play songs together on a daily basis. After 4 weeks I picked up my pineapple and…..oh boy. My fingers are awkward! Already! I have assimilated to the larger fretboard!! NOOOoooo!!!! LOL

Do not despair: I have begun to rotate my instruments and my fingers have already gone back to their “first position”, LOL.

I really like the deeper tone of this new Ukulele. The body seems on the deep side and rings a bit longer, which I also enjoy hearing. My awesome hubby says it is also louder (than my soprano) and he enjoys the sound of it as well.

He had responded to an online posting from a lady on Metcalfe street, who said she bought this tenor Ukulele kit off Amazon and changed her mind after a month. She was willing to “let it go”, as a package, for $200. She posted great pictures. He thought, “that’s a nice looking uke!” So he drives over to her house at 10 o’clock at night, and bargains with her on her front stoop like it’s a John Deer lawn mower with attachments, dings and scratches. But he came back with his trophy and put it all right in my arms (for much, much less than 200 bucks!!), and it literally looked like new – as if she opened the box, took one look and said “awe hell no” and packed it back up.

A little Woody….

This cute lil guy was also purchased for me by the awesome hubby, again from an online marketplace ad with pictures, and ironically, the seller also lived on Metcalfe street!

The seller liked to deal in antiques, sports cards and coins, so he attended many collectibles venues. During the pandemic restrictions in 2020, while no events were being held, he went through some items he had accumulated, restored or cleaned them, and started selling them.

This particular Ukulele is a plastic Disney keepsake, adorned with a gold start decal on the head stock. You can’t tell from the picture, but it is incredibly scratched up all across the Toy Story decal and the entire body and neck. It came to me with absolutely NO strings on it, no bag or box or packaging of any kind. I think we paid $10.

I like to play You’ve Got a Friend in Me on this one.

The only D-tuned Uke…..

We drove all the way to Brantford for this soprano at the end of last summer (2020).

A lady found these items whilst cleaning out her parents house for sale. They were up in a closet, no box or anything. The book and packet of strings were in a clear plastic bag.

This ukulele has a Harmony decal on the head stock. I could na see anything inside the body. There were old, red strings on it! I promptly re-strung it!

The book, Ukulele Hits, was of real use to me as it had 16 songs I have never heard of in my life beginning with I’ll be Seeing You and ending with Miss You.

The body and neck of the uke are wooden, but there is a plastic fret board on it, and the tuners are behind the head stock. There is hardly any wear on it except for two or three small areas in the red decal around the outer edge of the face.

Package deal….

This is possibly my hubby’s all-time best deal.

One of the seniors he supports told him she “didn’t love” her ukulele and the “equipment” she had. She told my husband “someone who loves to play ukulele should take it all off my hands”. So, he made her an offer, she accepted and he loaded it all up in his van and brought it home:

Ohana soprano Ukulele; tuner and Aquila strings packet; gold tweed hard case; solid black steel music stand; Hercules folding music stand with vinyl carry case; an adjustable folding uke stand; 2 slightly used Daily Ukulele songbooks by Jim Beloff.

So we’ve been keeping busy during the pandemic work-at-home restrictions, and I have more Ukuleles now than I ever planned on owning, even though 2 of them are stricktly for display (Woody and the Harmony).

Begs the question: what’s hanging on your walls?

It’s a, Mad World

APRIL 2020 

This song has been lucky enough to have been revitalized in the 2000’s in a very positive and enjoyable way.

Who doesn’t remember this scene from the Official Video for the 1983 Tears for Fears song, Mad World?

If you’ve seen it, and heard it, you’ll recall that the tempo is very fast. Half the time I couldn’t quite catch all of the words!

In the 80’s, British band Tears for Fears was insanely popular here in…….let’s just say North America. Their music genre was “Alternative/Indie”, which automatically made very teenager and college student want to listen to it and buy the album. This made Tears for Fears extremely popular – in addition to their talented song-making!

Almost 20 years later, the movie industry made this song popular again, with a new generation of listeners. In 2001 the song was featured in the film “Donnie Darko”, sung by Gary Jules. This piano version slowed the tempo down and allowed the beautifully sad tones of Gary Jules’ voice to flow over the melody, haunting us forever. It’s very beautiful and a 2006 video can easily be found on Youtube.

A few years later, an intriguing member of this next, younger generation performed his version of Mad World during Season 8 of American Idol.

Adam Lambert’s performance of the piano version of Mad World, in the style of Gary Jules, earned him a standing ovation by Simon Cowell and immortalized the song. That’s such an iconic picture of Adam Lambert with his stylized hair and black nails, isn’t it?

This picture of Adam Lambert was taken from the video uploaded to Youtube of him performing Mad World, a video which “went viral” with over 1 million views within 48 hours of being posted. (I looked at it today, and it was some insane amount like hundreds of millions lol)

However. The Youtube vid I am including today, is of the actual Curt Smith, on acoustic guitar, performing his own song, his version of Mad World. It was posted by Tory Birch in April 2020 – during pandemic – and has a little write up of how they are pleased to post this video of their “dear friend and his daughter Diva.” You’ll notice that it has over 6 million views!

Here is my uke version of Mad World, which I arranged in June/2020:

Whoa. OK That’s different. And new. I am just getting used to/familiarizng myself with WordPress’s new way of writing a blog post, so please forgive me if today’s post looks wonky. Ie. I have no idea what “preformatted” means, OR how it’s going to look…..so hopefully, as I continue posting and uploading content, things will improve.

Anyway, that’s it for today: hope you enjoy!

1 Year Update

Wow, just WOW! A year has flown by, and I feel I owe my now 45 followers an update.

I saw today – while I was finally taking the plunge to buy a new website domain name – that my most recent post was April of 2020. And at that time I fully planned on taking advantage of down-time and working from home to research some songs and put up some new arrangements. But obviously, that didn’t happen!

So I’m going to start at the end here and let you know that the domain name of my ukulele songs blog has now been changed to catsukulelesongs.com. It was previously catporritt.com, which is what I got stuck with the first time around. It think the new name is much better.

ALSO. I see we have a new blogging format??? I don’t know if I can find my way around here, as I like to post pictures, and include an uploaded pdf of my song, and perhaps also embed a video to go with it. I feel like I might have to take a workshop and I find that idea highly irritating, because I already taught myself how to do all of that. Painstakingly taught myself, one mistake at a time. And now you take it away, WordPress? It’s not like this blog is free, trust me, I PAY FOR THIS. Not impressed.

Lastly, I just want to say, I had planned on letting everyone know what I was up to last year, from having to stop meeting for uking to the closure of my work place office, but, since I can’t post pictures – looks like – I’m not going to bother today.

Instead. I will be FORCED to do the stupid workshop and then I will be posting a much more detailed update.

Or not. If I can’t get the pictures and uploading back, THERE IS LITERALLY NO POINT and WordPress, I really hope you’re reading this right now….

I Want to Hug You, But I Can’t!

Can't Get Out of the House Hello again. I must start off with an apology of sorts. I had let my website lapse, but since we are all at home isolating during this pandemic, I decided to revive it and post more songs.

One thing that is a prevalent part of this pandemic is the inability to socialize properly, because we can still call our loved ones on our phones and we can face-time and skype and go live on Youtube and Facebook. But what we really want, we can’t have. We really want to be there in person.

Hence today’s song by the Rolling Stones: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

*Although I suspect their lyrics are not referring to socializing…. but I will leave that up to you to determine!

The song sheet IS in the original key. You CAN play along with this video:

[imbed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krxU5Y9lCS8[/embed]

Country Roads

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Started compiling other songs that I saved up for this year’s songbook.

You can listen to the Youtube vid below. Olivia N-J used to start out with the chorus, at a slower tempo than the rest of the song. I don’t really recommend that unless you were going to perform it on a stage this way and the accompanying band knew this would be the arrangement. Of course, if you prefer the John Denver version, just start with the verse. 🙂

Once again, just posting for your enjoyment. I hope you like it.

Here is the songsheet: COUNTRY ROADS

Cat’s Ukulele Songbook #4

Sorry, this one took a bit longer to put together. I usually spend the time over the Christmas break compiling all the songs and formatting them but this year I was busier than usual.

Last year, we compiled a huge file of 80’s songs for a theme song night we held in Delhi at the Music Cafe. I also compiled Legion jam songs into two formats: one set of just lyrics with chord letters (so guitar players would feel comfortable) and an original set of song sheets with ukulele chords. I ALSO compiled a binder of Christmas songs of sheet music so my sister and her friend could play along with me for a “sing along” party that she held at her house. Co-ordinating their sheet music in the same key as my ukulele songs was a nightmare. I finally had to concede on some and just re-write mine in the same key as the sheet music. Sheet music, by the way, is hard to find on the internet for free. So remember that the next time you’re surfing around trying to find a song in a particular key: just get off yer duff and transpose it yourself, lazybones!

So the influence for this year’s songbook comes from the 80’s theme song night and the Legion jam songs. I posted hardly any contemporary or modern ukulele songs this year. I had gone back and revisited 2 songs that I had promised to the Colbie Callait category, so that’s what I contributed to that genre.

Cat’s Ukulele Songbook 4

The traditional Christmas ukulele songbook is still in the works. I think I have 7 songs out of 18 formatted. It will be coming out in the fall.

You can find all the other songbooks I compiled on the Songs tab. Scroll down to the bottom to the Songbooks section.

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